Revelation, as you may have noticed, is choc-a-bloc with some very strange images. John is asked, “What do you see?” Often Christians see things that are not there in the bible, make connections that don’t exist and use them to justify things that are morally unacceptable to us from what we learn elsewhere in scripture.

Events in Israel and the Palestinian territories have forced us to give voice to prayers and concerns in a context where words and names can have incendiary effects. So, many of us then find it difficult to know what to say or how to say it when speaking or praying into the terrible things we have been witnessing.

Scot McKnight has recently published an accessible, intelligent and helpful book about Revelation called “Revelation for the Rest of Us”. Scot very kindly agreed for us to use the following article he recently wrote for our blog this week.

How to Talk about Israel, Hamas, and Palestinians

More than once a request has come my way, asking for some suggestions, advice, or wisdom on how pastors, teachers, and parents can talk about or preach about Israel, Gaza, and the Palestinians.

    • We need to be in prayer: in lamenting the grievous deaths and violence; in pleading with God to awaken the desire for peace; in asking God for each of us to be patient and compassionate as our first step. Prayer is a form of activism that does not replace social activism.
    • Talk about justice. Talk about justice for each human on planet Earth. Talk justice for image-bearing humans, Palestinian, Jewish, and Muslim. Justice, not in the legal sense of Just War Theory, or in the sense of international war policies and rules, or in the legal rulings of a given nation. Talk about a deeper sense of justice for all. Justice for Israel. Justice for the Palestinians. Justice for Hamas. Justice for Hezbollah. Justice is doing what is right. Justice for a Christian is doing what is right in the way of Jesus. Justice is also doing what is right at the time so far as is possible.
    • Talk compassion, talk love, talk empathy. Compassion leads straight to becoming educated about the history of the Palestinians, about Israel, about Middle Eastern social tensions, injustices, terrorism, and violence. The simplistic story often heard, namely that the Palestinians and Jews lived in the land together in total peace but 1948 ended all that, requires nuance and correction rather than simplistic political finger-wagging.
    • Talk peace. Talk peace-making. Talking toward peace is Christian; war is not. If we talk peace, we will avoid taking sides. We will avoid saying “We stand with Israel” when that implies not standing with Palestinians. We will avoid saying “We stand with Palestinians when that means not standing with Israel.” We need to avoid excusing the violence of terrorists. We need to speak up and out about kidnapping, hostages, and taking prisoners. About acts of retaliation.

I plead with you to avoid thinking this event has anything whatsoever to do with a prophecy, either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Book of Revelation. In my past, the major event for some was the rebirth of Israel in 1948, which was understood to be not just miraculous but a fulfilment of the fig tree parable in Matthew 24. The problem was that the fig tree was followed by a prediction that the Lord would return within a generation. Well, that generation-expectation was the stinger and strength of that prophetic fulfilment. But that generation passed either in 1978 or 1988. Here we are about 75 years subsequent to 1948. (I’m not making a political statement here about 1948 at all; I’m saying it is not fulfilment of a prophecy.) By the way, since that generation point lost its day in court, people have turned to the return to the Land from exile passages in the Old Testament. They are not about 1948 either.

A note: Many of us were socialized into believing 1948 fulfilled some special prophecy; many never looked into it; many of us have been nurtured in a faith shaped by such a pro-Israel political stance that we can never ponder that Israel is not infallible in its decisions. We need to recognize this orientation, that any alternative view can be disorienting, and that a reorientation takes time. We need a new evangelical culture when it comes to politics.

this must be said whether from the pulpit or not: every precise fulfilment of some Bible verse (understood as) prophetic prediction so far has been shown not to be a fulfilment. Put more bluntly, the predictors have all been wrong about every prediction so far. They need to stop. We need to stop. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Gorbachev, Putin, et al. – none were THE antichrist. None. WWI, WWII, the Six Day War, the oil crisis, you name it, each has been ramped up with apocalyptic expectations and every last one – name them all – has been wrongly connected to the end of history. The approach is entirely wrong.

All the while generations have been blinded to the theopolitical message of Revelation. Which is why we need to be more biblical by talking justice, compassion, and peace.

© 2023 Scot McKnight